Biopreparat

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The All-Union Science Production Association Biopreparat (Russian: Биопрепарат, lit: "biological preparation") was the Soviet agency created in April 1974, which spearheaded the largest and most sophisticated offensive biological warfare programme the world has ever seen. It was a vast, ostensibly civilian, network employing 30-40,000 personnel and incorporating five major military-focused research institutes, numerous design and instrument-making facilities, three pilot plants and five dual-use production plants. The network pursued major offensive R&D programmes which genetically engineered microbial strains to be resistant to an array of antibiotics. In addition, bacterial agents were created with the ability to produce various peptides, yielding strains with wholly new and unexpected pathogenic properties.[1]

History[edit]

Establishment[edit]

On the 24 April 1974, the USSR's Main Administration of the Microbiological Industry (Glavmikrobioprom) issued Order 131 DSP which created the All-Union Science Production Association Biopreparat. On the 26 June 1974, a number of the Soviet Union's existing dual-use BW facilities were transferred to the new agency. These included the Berdsk Chemical Factory and the Omutninsk Chemical Factory. The Biopreparat project was reportedly initiated by academician Yuri Anatol'evich Ovchinnikov, who convinced General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev that development of biological weapons was necessary.[2] The research at Biopreparat constituted a violation of the terms of the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, which outlawed biological weapons.[citation needed]

Exposure in the West[edit]

Biopreparat's R&D and production programmes were from the very outset subject to extraordinary levels of secrecy and compartmentalization. The first significant intelligence reaching the West regarding the nature and extent of this Soviet covert BW effort resulted from the defection to the UK in October 1989 of a high-level Biopreparat scientist, Vladimir Artemovich Pasechnik (1937–2001). The latter was able to provide a detailed account of the vast scope of Moscow's clandestine program. As a result of Pasechnik's testimony, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President George H. W. Bush were able to apply pressure on Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to open up Russia's germ warfare facilities to a team of outside inspectors. When the inspectors toured four of the sites in 1991, they were met with denials and evasions. Production tanks, the purpose of which seemed to be to manufacture large quantities of hazardous materials, were clean and sterile when presented to inspectors. Laboratories had been stripped of equipment before being presented to inspectors.[3]

Pasechnik's revelations that the program was much greater in scope than previously suspected were confirmed in 1992 with the travel to the United States of Colonel Kanatzhan Baizakovich Alibekov (b. 1950). The latter, who subsequently adopted the name of Ken Alibek, had served as First Deputy Director of Biopreparat from 1988-1992. Alibekov later wrote the book Biohazard (1999) detailing publicly his extensive inside knowledge of the structure, goals, operations and achievements of Biopreparat. He was also featured in the October 13, 1998 episode of Frontline entitled "Plague War".

Changing Role of Biopreparat, 1985 - Present[edit]

Biopreparat had three distinct,and, at times overlapping, phases of its existence. From its origins in April 1974 through to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, and indeed for some undetermined time thereafter, it was engaged in a major offensive BW research programme. It also maintained five dual-use manufacturing plants. In March 1985, with the election by the Politboro of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the CPSU, Biopreparat increased in size and political importance and began to emerge also as a major player with regard to the civil biopharmaceutical sector. By 1988, in this second phase, the Biopreparat network incorporated no less than 40 facilities, operating in 15 different cities and had control of domestic production of vaccines, antibiotics and other essential medicines. It was precisely at this moment that Alibekov emerged as a key interlocutor between Biopreparat and a number of Western pharmaceutical companies. In the third and final phase during the 2000s, Biopreparat was divested of control of nearly all R&D institutes and manufacturing facilities. Henceforward, it assumed a highly diminished role, focused on export control and other matters and only maintained a small headquarters staff.[4]

Operations[edit]

Biopreparat was a system of nominally civilian, research and design institutes, pilot plants and dual-use manufacturing facilities located mainly at sites in European Russia, in which a small army of scientists and technicians worked on bacterial and viral pathogens with a view to developing a new generation of biological weapons. It incorporated capacity with the potential to produce weaponized anthrax in the Soviet Union and was a leader in the development of new bioweapons technologies.

Facilities[edit]

The project incorporated the following R&D, design, pilot plant and production facilities:

Pathogens[edit]

Research was conducted on a range of bacterial and viral pathogens with a view to their potential weaponization. These included:

The only reliable data with regard to production capacity of weaponised agents concerns SNOPB (Stepnogorsk). Here, the plant is estimated to have incorporated capacity for the production of around 300 metric tonnes of weaponized B. anthracis spores per ten-month production cycle.[6]

Leaders[edit]

Directors[edit]

Major General (Reserves) Vsevolod Ivanovich Ogarkov (April 1974 - 1979)[7]

Colonel (Reserves) Anatolii Anatol'evich Miklashevskii (1979)

Lieutenant General (Reserves) Yurii Tikhonovich Kalinin (1980 - April 2001)[8]

First Deputy Directors[edit]

Major General (Reserves) Anatolii Andreevich Vorob'ev (1978-1988)

Colonel (Reserves) Kanatzhan Baizakovich Alibekov (1988-1992)[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rimmington, Anthony (November 3, 2021). The Soviet Union's Invisible Weapons of Mass Destruction: Biopreparat's Covert Biological Warfare Programme. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-030-82881-3.
  2. ^ Alibek, K. and S. Handelman. Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World - Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran it. 1999. Delta (2000) ISBN 0-385-33496-6 [1]
  3. ^ Preston, Richard (March 9, 1998). "THE BIOWEAPONEERS". pp. 52-65. The New Yorker.
  4. ^ Rimmington, Anthony (November 3, 2021). The Soviet Union's Invisible Weapons of Mass Destruction: Biopreparat's Covert Biological Warfare Programme. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-030-82881-3.
  5. ^ Rimmington, Anthony (November 3, 2021). The Soviet Union's Invisible Weapons of Mass Destruction: Biopreparat's Covert Biological Warfare Programme. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-030-82881-3.
  6. ^ Leitenberg, Milton; Zilinskas, Raymond A.; Kuhn, Jens H. (June 29, 2012). The Soviet Biological Weapons Program: a history. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-06526-0.
  7. ^ Rimmington, Anthony (November 3, 2021). The Soviet Union's Invisible Weapons of Mass Destruction: Biopreparat's Covert Biological Warfare Programme. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-030-82881-3.
  8. ^ Rimmington, Anthony (November 3, 2021). The Soviet Union's Invisible Weapons of Mass Destruction: Biopreparat's Covert Biological Warfare Programme. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-030-82881-3.
  9. ^ Miller, Judith (January 25, 2000). "U.S. Aid Is Diverted to Germ Warfare, Russian Scientists Say". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]